Littler Marches On

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Following a three-day Christmas break, the sport’s showpiece event resumed in style at London’s Alexandra Palace, with Champion Michael Smith, Michael Van Gerwen and Littler all progressing on a star-studded night of action.

But, it’ll be the teenager who grabs the headlines after continuing after barely a pause to unwrap his gifts.

Littler continued his record-breaking run with a comprehensive 4-1 success against Canada’s Matt Campbell, to become the youngest ever player to progress to the last 16 at the World Championship.

The 16-year-old swept to the opening set in a matter of minutes, before reeling off legs of 14, 12 and 14 darts to double his lead – featuring a magnificent 130 checkout midway through set two.

Littler then punished key misses from Campbell in the latter stages of set three to move to the cusp of glory, only for the Canadian to open his account with a clinical 120 combination in a fourth set decider.

However, the World Youth Champion responded with a sublime 164 checkout to kick off set five, which he followed up with a brilliant 11-darter on his way to another landmark victory.

“It’s unbelievable,” admitted Littler, who averaged 97, landed eight 180s and converted three ton-plus finishes to move through to a last 16 clash against Jim Williams or Raymond van Barneveld.

“Overall, it was a good performance. It wasn’t quite as good as the first round, but I don’t care if I win with the lowest average of the tournament, as long as I get the result.

“I’ve got nothing to lose now, because I’ve already overachieved. Jim is playing well, but it would be unbelievable to play against Raymond on that stage.”

Earlier in the day, Rob Cross progressed to the fourth round with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over a spirited Jeffery de Graff, averaging 101 and landing ten 180s to triumph.

Cross won six of the first eight legs to establish a two-set buffer, and while De Graaf reduced the arrears to 3-2, the 2018 champion averaged 113 in a sensational sixth set, to move through to the last 16 for a third straight year.

In Wednesday’s opener, Scott Williams defied 13 maximums from Martin Schindler to prevail in a seven-set epic, recovering from 2-0 and 3-2 down to reach round four for the first time in his career.

Despite a sluggish start, Williams landed 152 and 146 checkouts to level at 2-2, only for the diminutive German to regain his advantage with a spectacular 161 finish to round off set five.

However, after restoring parity at three sets apiece, Williams followed up a brace of 90 checkouts with a 13-dart break to come through a thrilling tie-break.

Schindler’s World Cup partner Gabriel Clemens also crashed out on an eventful afternoon in the capital, succumbing 4-1 to 2021 semi-finalist Dave Chisnall.

Chisnall won nine out of ten legs in the opening exchanges to establish a commanding lead 3-0, punishing 22 missed darts at double from last year’s semi-finalist to keep his title hopes alive.

The third round action continues with another double session on Thursday, as 2021 champion Gerwyn Price faces Brendan Dolan, while third seed Luke Humphries takes on Germany’s Ricardo Pietreczko.

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship

Wednesday December 27
Afternoon Session
Third Round
Scott Williams 4-3 Martin Schindler (1-3, 0-3, 3-0, 3-2, 0-3, 3-1, 4-2) (R3)
Dave Chisnall 4-1 Gabriel Clemens (3-1, 3-0, 3-1, 1-3, 3-2) (R3)
Rob Cross 4-2 Jeffrey de Graaf (3-2, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 1-3, 3-1) (R3)

Evening Session
Luke Littler 4-1 Matt Campbell (3-0, 3-0, 3-2, 2-3, 3-1) (R3)
Michael van Gerwen 4-0 Richard Veenstra (3-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-0) (R3)
Michael Smith 4-1 Madars Razma (2-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1) (R3)

—–Ends—–

Images: Simon O’Connor / PDC

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